Knight panel peers into the future of news


If the “blue ribbon” contributors to a report on the future of journalism are correct, it’s headed toward the internet, and the business model may increasingly be non-profit. That’s not to say the panel wouldn’t take steps to shore up the private model for traditional media.

The panel introduced 15 recommendations to make sure the information needs of the country are being met, in three main areas. They are maximizing the effectiveness of news organizations and the availability of credible info; enabling all citizens to gather that information; and promoting public engagement with the media and the democratic process.

The 15 recommendations are these:

A. Maximizing the Availability of Relevant and Credible Information

* Recommendation 1: Direct media policy toward innovation, competition, and support for business models that provide marketplace incentives for quality journalism.

* Recommendation 2: Increase support for public service media aimed at meeting community information needs.

* Recommendation 3: Increase the role of higher education, community and nonprofit institutions as hubs of journalistic activity and other information-sharing for local communities.

* Recommendation 4: Require government at all levels to operate transparently, facilitate easy and low-cost access to public records, and make civic and social data available in standardized formats that support the productive public use of such data.

* Recommendation 5: Develop systematic quality measures of community information ecologies, and study how they affect social outcomes.

B.  Enhancing the Information Capacity of Individuals

* Recommendation 6: Integrate digital and media literacy as critical elements for education at all levels through collaboration among federal, state, and local education officials.

* Recommendation 7: Fund and support public libraries and other community institutions as centers of digital and media training, especially for adults.

* Recommendation 8: Set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband services.

* Recommendation 9: Maintain the national commitment to open networks as a core objective of Internet policy.

* Recommendation 10: Support the activities of information providers to reach local audiences with quality content through all appropriate media, such as mobile phones, radio, public access cable, and new platforms.

C.  Promoting Public Engagement

* Recommendation 11: Expand local media initiatives to reflect the full reality of the communities they represent.

* Recommendation 12: Engage young people in developing the digital information and communication capacities of local communities.

* Recommendation 13: Empower all citizens to participate actively in community self-governance, including local “community summits” to address community affairs and pursue common goals.

* Recommendation 14: Emphasize community information flow in the design and enhancement of a local community’s public spaces.

* Recommendation 15: Ensure that every local community has at least one high-quality online hub.

RBR-TVBR observation: We would note two things.

First, there has got to be an important role preserved for private media – we do not want a non-profit model, and its unfortunate tie to the government, to be the sole or even the main source for news. A competing source, sure. But an independent press is an absolute necessity to truly cover the government properly (which is not to say that its track record has been particularly admirable lately). To that end, we would start right away looking at least at some bandaid fixes, like tax breaks for journalism expenses and credits for maintaining payroll levels to encourage the private media to keep at it.

Second, we also expect that the internet will play an increasingly important role in the news business, not the least of which is its tendency to rob traditional media of income streams. We do not believe that Knight has explained how to generate revenue in exchange for news presented on the internet, however, and until there’s an answer to that question, the journalism business is still going to be in trouble.